A group of concerned citizens comprising social and environmental activists recently wrote to the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority claiming that work on the project, which is based in an eco sensitive zone, had commenced without the mandatory environmental clearance. The activists said that no social and environmental impact assessment study or public consultation was carried out prior to beginning work on the project.
The Statue of Unity has been conceptualized to commemorate the Iron Man of India. With a height of 182 meters, it will be the tallest statue in the world. Located at Sadhu Bet Island, approximately 3.5 km. south of Sardar Sarovar dam, at Kevadia in the Narmada district, the project is estimated to cost Rs. 2,500 crore.
The Gujarat government has entrusted the task of implementing the Statue of Unity project to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust chaired by the Chief Minister. The Trust, in turn, has appointed a consortium comprising Turner Project Management India Private Limited as lead member, Meinhardt India Private Limited and Michael Graves & Associates Inc. to provide design, engineering, project management and construction management services for the project. The consultancy contract was accorded approval by the governing body of the Trust. An executive committee headed by the Chief Secretary and comprising senior secretaries has been constituted to take project related decisions. The project will be completed in four years.
According to the state government, the Statue of Unity will accelerate the district’s growth.
The letter written by the group of concerned citizens said the commencement of work on the Statue of Unity project without environmental clearance and in the absence of any social and environmental impact study and public consultation was violation of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, Environment Impact Assessment notification, 2006, and various orders of courts and the National Green Tribunal concerning construction on riverbed. It asked the MoEF to direct the Gujarat government to halt all work on the project and first seek environmental clearance. Till the time environmental clearance was obtained, no work relating to the project should be carried out, the letter said.
Chief Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the Statue of Unity on October 31st. Tenders for the project have already been floated.